Staging the Construction of Place in Two Antarctic Plays
Nielsen, HEF, Staging the Construction of Place in Two Antarctic Plays, Performing Ice, Palgrave Macmillan, M Delbridge, E Leane and CJ Philpott (ed), London, pp. 27-54. ISBN 9783030473877 (2020) [Research Book Chapter]
One of the world’s most unusual degrees is the Postgraduate Certificate of Antarctic Studies (PCAS). This summer course, run by the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, includes a fieldtrip to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, where New Zealand’s polar activities are concentrated. At the end of the fieldwork, and before departing Antarctica, a PCAS ritual is to perform a skit about the group’s on-ice experiences for the staff of New Zealand’s Scott Base. Preparing scripts and rehearsing with classmates in December 2011, I was keenly aware that we were feeding into a long tradition of performing in Antarctica. As fifteen of us took to the "stage" in the dining hall and dramatized such events as "the forgotten boots," "the sunbathing incident," and "the lost pencil," we not only parodied contemporary safety and environmental regulations and reporting mechanisms – we also added another layer to Ross Island’s performing history. Those performances have taken many guises: Heroic Era explorers transformed the chilly confines of Discovery Hut into the Royal Terror Theatre (Leane 2003; Pearson 2004) and staged the 1862 farce entitled Ticket-of-Leave in the winter of 1902 (Scott 1905, p. 376); Australasian Antarctic Expeditioners performed an original "opera" called The Washerwoman’s Secret in Commonwealth Bay in 1912 (Mawson 1915, p. 208); and Jenny Coverack brought the story of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s wife Kathleen to Scott’s Terra Nova Hut in a site-specific performance of A Father For My Son (2000) in 2006. That stations such as Scott Base have entire rooms dedicated to costumes is testament to the ongoing popularity of performance. Antarctic expeditioners have long recognized the power of theatre to entertain and transport audiences to familiar places back home.
Research Book Chapter
Antarctica, humanities, language, advertising, South Pole